WORLD Cup winner Roger Hunt believes Daniel Sturridge could hold the key to victory over Italy tonight.
The former Liverpool and Wanderers striker, who helped Sir Alf Ramsey’s side win the trophy on home soil in 1966, is looking forward to seeing a young England side in action.
But in former Whites loanee Sturridge, Hunt reckons Roy Hodgson has got a player at the peak of his powers and has urged the England coach to play him in a central position in the Group D opener.
“He’s really playing in his best position now,” said 75-year-old Hunt. “At other clubs he’s been on the wing. He’s happy when he plays in the middle and the goal he scored (in the friendly) against Peru shows what he’s capable of.
“If you’re a goalscorer then you’re desperate to score because if you’re scoring goals you are happy and it gives you confidence to go on and get another.
“He seems quite mature and with all the goals he scored for Liverpool last season he should be one of our best players.”
Sturridge scored 27 goals in 39 appearances for club and country last season and helped Liverpool to an unexpected second-placed finish in the Premier League.
With fellow Anfield stars Raheem Sterling, Steven Gerrard, Glen Johnson and Jordan Henderson also in the reckoning, Hunt draws comparisons with the West Ham contingent that helped England lift the trophy in ’66.
“They (Liverpool) played terrific last season, it’s a good thing if they are playing together in the league as they have that understanding,” he said. “Bobby Moore, Martin Peters and Geoff Hurst, you could see in one or two goals they scored that it came from their understanding – that could be the same this year.”
Hunt, who played 84 times for Wanderers beteween 1969 and 1972, also urged England not to panic if they fail to beat Italy in Manaus tonight, arguing that a point would not be a disaster.
“That’s what happened to us in ’66,” he explained.
“We thought we had to win the first game but we drew 0-0 with Uruguay, so it’s not a bad result.
“A draw would suit both teams, but the Italians are always cautious, so if we could get a win in the first game it would be fantastic.”